I was cleaning out some files as I moved my office and some of what I tossed brought back memories.
Back in the early days of the rebirth of JFNA (that's at the time that Steve Hoffman was seated as CEO) when there was still the sense that the organization's future was bright, I presented a proposal to Board Chair Bobby Goldberg.
I had asked a broker client to undertake a pro bono assignment -- to determine whether there was available office space at the "right price" proximate to Chicago's O'Hare airport of sufficient size to absorb JFNA, what the rental cost might be, and, evaluating as well the comparable cost of remaining in New York City. At the time, JFNA had received a $1 million buy-out proposal from its New York City landlord. The "bible" the broker prepared identified five first class office building alternatives at an initial savings of $1 million per year ramping up to over $2 million over the term of a 10-year lease, not including: (a) the $1 million New York lease buy-out, (b) the savings in JFNA labor costs or (c) the reduction in the cost of living to a relocated JFNA staff. (It's also true that none of us could evaluate the dislocation to the staff that a relocation would cause.)
I sent the proposal to Bobby Goldberg, who had an in-depth working knowledge of real estate values and opportunities from a lifetime of real estate investment and lending and was dedicated to reducing operating costs at JFNA (then, of course, United Jewish Communities). Not more than just hours later, Bobby called me and said "this would be fantastic, we should definitely do this. I'm going to go over this with Steve (Hoffman)." I was optimistic given that Bobby saw, as did I, the opportunities to put tremendous savings to use for our People and to move JFNA closer to the vast number of federations thereby assuring a better chance at real engagement.
Not long after that initial conversation, Bobby called me: "This is a terrible idea. We aren't going to discuss it further." Bottom line, as you can probably guess, Hoffman had immediately told Goldberg that he had too much of substance on his plate having just taken on the CEO position and, though he had not even read the proposal, he was not the least bit interested. I understood Steve's position on this; I also got a pretty clear picture of the lay-professional balance between Board Chair and President-CEO at JFNA.
The conservative estimate of what might have been saved over the fifteen year period since we examined the options is about $30,000,000 -- $30,000,000 that might have been used to fund a multitude of JFNA "Mailboxes;" or to serve the needs met in the Negev or through the ENP; to assist the most needy of our People whether in the Ukraine over bitter winters or Holocaust Survivors in our communities. I don't fault Steve Hoffman, then in his first months as CEO -- he did have so much on his plate -- but that should not have meant that in moments of greater "calm" that the savings we could have achieved for the federations be given appropriate consideration by a special committee. It wasn't.
"No more discussion."